Category: <span>Children</span>

What are the signs your child may need counseling?

5 Easy Ways to Connect to Your Child

Why is it important to connect?

With the busy schedules we face as families, it is easy to get lost in the day to day grind. Between games, dance recitals, music lessons, and never ending homework, it can be easy to forget to set aside downtime to connect with our children. Why is it so important for us to set aside time to connect with our kiddos? Because connection is at the heart of what we need as humans. We are wired to connect with those we love, to remind us of our support systems in the time of need, and to feel wanted by others. As parents, it is so important to provide this to our children. Just as we meet our child’s physical needs with food, shelter, and extracurricular activities, our children also need to have their emotional needs met.

When we feel connected, secure, and safe, our brains are better able to manage all of the input they receive throughout the day. In a connected state, we are better equipped to handle big emotions and better able to problem solve when things don’t go our way. When children feel safe, loved and secure they are able to take risks because they know that someone will be there if they need them.

Now that we talked briefly about why it is important to connect, you may be thinking, “Gosh, now I have to add another thing to my do-list?” Well, thankfully, finding ways to connect can actually be quite simple. Moments of connection don’t have to be an hour-long process, it can be just a few minutes a day. I have some suggestions below, but find what works best for your family and your schedule. You can easily adapt any of these suggestions to different times of the day, or different frequencies. I typically suggest that you try at least one of these once a week. It doesn’t have to be the same each week, and you don’t have to do all of these at once. You know your child and your family best.

Suggestions for connection:

1. Play a familiar game with your child

Yes, it’s as easy as playing a board or a card game with your child. I encourage you both to put away your phones and play your favorite game together. Whether it’s Uno, Candyland, or Go-Fish, playing a board game can encourage connection and communication between the two of you. I have found that teenagers even benefit from this approach, though they might appreciate a more challenging board or card game. Competition should be off the table with this approach. If you notice your child or teen becoming frustrated, take a break or switch to a new game. Board games are a great way to practice turn-taking, empathy and joy with each other.

2. Eat family dinner or meals together

Family meal time is a perfect way to encourage connection. There’s something natural about sitting around at the dinner table and sharing stories about one’s day over a good meal. Now, I know many of you may not be able to do this every night, and you certainly don’t have to. But try to sit down as a family at least once or twice a week. Again, turn off the TV or phones and simply sit down with one another.

3. Create a ritual on the drive to or from school

If your child is under sixteen, you are probably driving them to school or extracurricular activities which means you are probably in the car together quite often. Creating a ritual or a moment of connection can easily be adapted to your busy driving schedule. For example, on your way to school you can each name something you are excited for, something you are nervous for, and something you are hopeful for the day. One family I know listens to their favorite audio book together. Another idea is to play a familiar car game. Get creative, those long drives and waiting in the carpool lines can be an excellent time for you to connect.

4. Set aside screen-free time at least once a week

This one goes into the other suggestions, but I encourage all families to set aside 1-hour free of screen time at least once a week. This means no phones, no TV, or tablets. Encourage your child to play a game outside with you, or work on a puzzle together. Whatever it is, remove distractions from technology so that you can focus on whatever game or activity you are doing together.

5. Find a special way to connect before bedtime

Creating a ritual of connection before bedtime can not only be helpful for your relationship with each other, but also promote healthy sleep. If you have a young child, this can look like reading a bedtime story together or cuddling before bed. An older child or teen, this can be sitting down with them one-on-one and talking about their day.

Whatever method you choose, find one that works for your family. By being intentional about spending time with your child, you are giving them the signal that you are there for them and that you support them when they need you.

If you or your child are still struggling, you don’t have to navigate this alone. Reach out to us to find a therapist that best fits you and your child’s needs.

Suggested Resources:

The Power of Showing Up: How Parental Presence Shapes Who Our Kids Become and How Their Brains Get Wired By Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

A child sitting with his parents while a educational professional performs a psychoeducational evaluation.

Psychoeducational Evaluations 101

Have you been told that your child could benefit from a psychoeducational evaluation? If so, you might be wondering what a psychoeducational evaluation is, why your child might need one, and what’s involved with getting one. If you’re wanting to learn more about this kind of testing, we hope you’ll find this information helpful in deciding whether it’s right for your child.

The assessment team at Brentwood Counseling Associates strives to help parents understand their child’s patterns of strengths and weaknesses, identify barriers to success, and gain an understanding of their child’s unique style of learning. We currently offer comprehensive psychoeducational evaluations and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) evaluations for children, adults, and everyone in between. Psychoeducational evaluations are useful in that they highlight a child’s intellectual abilities (including verbal comprehension, visual-spatial reasoning, fluid reasoning, working memory, and processing speed) and reveal a pattern of how they learn in their own unique ways. They also include assessment of academic achievement to assist the clinician in ruling out learning disabilities such as reading disorders and dyslexia, writing disorders and dysgraphia, and math disorders and dyscalculia. This specific type of evaluation further includes assessment of the child’s social-emotional functioning and behavior to help identify disorders such as ADHD and those related to anxiety and depression.

Perhaps the referral concern includes issues such as difficulty focusing, poor concentration, or irritability. A teacher may report to a parent that they observe their student to be anxious about their school work or that it takes them longer to complete their assignments. A parent may notice that their child struggles with friendships or that they are argumentative. The family may report to their pediatrician that their child has been more withdrawn in school and at home and that they spend more time worrying. A tutor may observe that their student struggles with retaining information and with reading comprehension. It is through careful examination of the child’s presenting symptoms, developmental history, academic performance, and data collected in an assessment (including parent and teacher rating forms and questionnaires) that our clinicians can begin to tease out concerns and make a determination about differential diagnoses (e.g., ADHD versus a learning disorder). Psychoeducational evaluations can provide answers about what specific challenges children experience and can assist clinicians in guiding academic supports such as accommodations and/or modifications if needed.

Our comprehensive psychoeducational evaluations begin with a detailed interview with the clinician in which the family can express their concerns and provide helpful information about their child’s developmental, medical, social-emotional, and academic history. This interview is followed by approximately two hours of testing during the first session and three hours of testing during the second session. During that time, the clinician works with the child to gain an understanding about the issues and to make a determination about what tests are needed. An assessment battery generally consists of individually administered, standardized measures such as an IQ test, an academic achievement test, rating scales, and a child interview. Feedback sessions occur within two to three weeks in which the parents meet with the clinician to review a detailed, comprehensive report together and discuss recommendations and potential adjunct therapy referrals. The parent is able to ask questions, and time is spent with them to make sure they understand their child’s overall pattern of strengths and weaknesses.

Contact Brentwood Counseling Associates today if you’d like to explore psychoeducational evaluation for your child.

What are the signs your child may need counseling?

Signs Your Child May Need Counseling

So, you’re wondering if your child needs a therapist and are asking yourself, “Is this (fill in the blank) normal?” I completely understand. There are a lot of worries surrounding parenting and wanting the best for your child. I want to start by saying, parents, you are the expert of your child, no one knows them better than you. Often times, parents will come into my office saying that they can sense that there is something going on with their child but they just aren’t sure if it’s normal or if it’s something they should be concerned about. I will acknowledge that sometimes it is hard to say because there can be a fine line between normal and “let’s get some help with this.” Let’s briefly talk about the definition of a “normal” child and some signs your child may need counseling from a professional therapist.

So, what’s normal?

There’s no perfect child or parent and there is some normalcy in having fluctuations in mood and behavior that are part of normal child development. Children do break the rules sometimes. I know how frustrating it can be to have your child not follow directions but testing limits is how they learn who they are and how the world works. This also creates the opportunity for you to teach them valuable lessons while they are still within your safety net and can receive your guidance and support. Sometimes, however, persistent behavior problems can be a sign of something more serious. Another thing that can be normal is changes in appetite and sleep. Have they been on a school break recently? Are they off their routine? Sometimes changes in routine can affect things like sleep and appetite. However, these changes should be monitored and if they persist beyond a couple of weeks it could be an indication that something is up.

Here are some common experiences that may trigger signs your child may need counseling with a professional therapist:

  1. Life Transitions – Sometimes change is inevitable and not all change is bad. However, sometimes kids struggle when they experience too many life changes all at once. What could be a small change for you could be having a more difficult impact on your child. Did you and your child recently move? Or did they have a change in school? It can be normal to see a brief change in your child’s behavior when they are going through life transitions. As adults, even for us we need time to adjust and get our bearings after a recent move or change in job. However, if changes in sleep, appetite or mood persist for more than a couple of weeks it could be an indication they are having difficulty handling things.
  2. Household chaos – Every family has some sort of dysfunction. Parents are people too and sometimes may have disagreements with one another, other adults, or even their children. These disagreements don’t always have a negative effect on children, but they can. Problems arise when children witness highly emotional arguments between parents, or between parents and other individuals, physical violence (pushing, hitting, shoving, etc.), someone important to them leaves the household.
  3. Separation from parent – Separations from your child can occur for many reasons (divorce, changes in custody, parents traveling for work), some reasons aren’t controllable, it doesn’t always mean it’s going negatively impact your child. There may be times in which you are not always able to be with your child. As children get older and are gaining autonomy, this is quite normal and appropriate. However, until they reach middle school children are heavily reliant on parents to meet their emotional, physical, and basic needs. I believe what is important is that children are able to maintain healthy access to parents as much as possible. It’s important to keep a close watch on how your child is handling separations from you. Problems can easily arise if a child feels their ‘safe place’ is being threatened.
  4. Death of a family member or friend – Loss is a normal part of life, and grief is not pathology. Children are able to process the death of a loved one effectively if it’s talked about and handled appropriately. Problems arise when they don’t understand what they’re feelings, have been given untruthful information or they feel its unsafe to share their feelings. Regardless, it can always be helpful to have assistance from a counselor to foster a healthy grieving process.
  5. A frightening life event – When most people think of traumatic experiences, they immediately think of things such as abuse (physical, emotional, sexual) or neglect. In these instances, counseling is always recommended regardless the presence of symptoms.
    But what if it’s not abuse or neglect? Can other things be traumatic for children? The quick answer is yes. Again, it’s important to hold in mind the perspective of a child. Something could be scary to your child that isn’t scary to you: a traumatic doctor visit, a car accident (even minor), sickness of a parent, experiencing a major natural disaster, experience with death like attending a funeral, to name a few. Young children are highly susceptible to the ‘emotion in the room’. Were other people stressed, upset or crying? If so, this could have been a traumatic experience for a young child who doesn’t understand or isn’t able to express the event’s impact.
  6. Bullying – Parents, you are unable to protect their children from everything and unfortunately, most people will have experienced some form of bullying within their life. Most of us are able to overcome this experience with support. It’s important to engage in regular check-ins about peer relationships to create the opportunity for healthy conversation with your child. This also creates the opportunity for your child to gain skills from you on how to handle stressful situations. However, sometimes, bullying is persistent. Persistent experiencing of threats to physical safety or criticism can lead to feelings of low self-esteem or worthlessness. In these cases, if can be helpful to have support from a counselor to work on healthy ways to problem solve and cope.

If your child has experienced one or more of the above it doesn’t necessarily mean they will need additional support. However, it is always a good idea to monitor your child when they are going through these experiences so you can identify warning signs your child may need counseling. Some of these signals can be:

  • Difficulty managing emotional outbursts
  • Behavior that does not respond to discipline
  • Persistent difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Persistent increase or decrease in appetite
  • Behavior that interferes with school
  • Behavior that interferes with social interactions
  • Self-injury or talk about suicide

How can a therapist help?

Therapy can look different depending on the age of the client. With young children its often a misconception they cannot benefit from therapy because they aren’t able to understand or articulate their feelings. Research search tells us that children are able to express themselves through ways other than verbal expression. A common way is through play or other expressive activities like drawing. Children communicate their perception of the world through play and its therapeutic for them to share their feelings in this manner. It is necessary for parents to participate in therapeutic process. This creates opportunity for therapists or parents to assist the child in labeling his or her own feelings and experiences. Incorporating emotional identification and healthy coping strategies can be extremely effective in supporting children who have had stressful experiences. Being understood and having support increases the efficacy for behavior changes and overall positive functioning. As children get older, therapists are able to incorporate more verbal processing and problem solving. However, regardless the age a therapist can be an integral part of aiding in healthy development and overcoming difficult experiences.

Armed with a little more knowledge, the signs that your child may need counseling might be a little more evident. Ready to schedule an appointment? Contact Brentwood Counseling Associates and connect with one of our experienced therapists.

 

 

adhd testing

ADHD Testing

Testing for ADHD can be as brief as a school or pediatric screening; or, if a learning disability is suspected, it may be as comprehensive as a full psychoeducational evaluation or neuropsychological assessment. Typically, the protocol is somewhere in-between. At Brentwood Counseling, experienced psychologists and educational consultants help evaluate Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in children, adolescents and adults using the following protocol:

  • Parent Interview and Review of History
  • Parent Rating Scales (ADHD, Developmental History, Behavior/Psychological)
  • Teacher Rating Scales
  • Self-Rating Scales (older students and adults)
  • Consultation with referring therapist or physician (when appropriate)
  • Extensive Clinical Interview with child, adolescent, or adult (typically requires two sessions)
  • Observation of child in classroom (when appropriate)
  • Psychological Screening to help rule out other concerns (e.g., anxiety, depression, behavior disorder)
  • Written report
  • Feedback session with parents to review results and recommendations for treatment, etc.

It is important to remember that ADHD is not a binary (yes/no) diagnosis that a certain score on a specific test can identify. Rather it is a continuum disorder that presents in varying degrees as a deficit in some aspect of self-regulation (attention, focus, hyperactivity, impulsivity). An ADHD diagnosis requires concerns in childhood that continue to have a negative impact over time in more than one setting (e.g., school, relationships, family, work). Even well-trained professionals can disagree as to causes of these problems with self-regulation, but basic symptoms are outlined in the Diagnostic of Statistical Manual (D.S.M.-5) and provide helpful guidelines for clinicians with the evaluation process. If a diagnosis is made, treatment options include behavioral/psychological interventions, environmental changes, parenting modifications, school accommodations, neurofeedback and, at times, medication.

 

If you are in need of ADHD testing, contact Brentwood Counseling Associates and connect with one of our experienced therapists.

 

 

parenting adhd kids

Parenting ADHD Kids and Teens

by David Elkins

To Understand

ADHD is not just an immature, overly active child; a passive, defiant middle schooler; or an unmotivated, lazy teenager. ADHD is a neurobiological condition that presents with deficits in self-regulation (attention, focus, over-activity, or impulsivity) starting in early childhood and at times may create impairment in school, relationships, or daily activities.

ADHD is a continuum disorder, not yes/no or black/white. The Executive Functioning area of the brain (prefrontal cortex) is not fully developed until mid 20’s. The “ADHD brain” often lags several years behind.

ADHD often co-exists with other behavioral, learning, and psychological concerns (e.g., learning disability, cognitive processing deficit, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, low self-esteem).

ADHD is a lifelong challenge with Age/Stage Implications. ADHD kids and teens often

  • Take the scenic route
  • Display “quick twitch”
  • Act like “knuckleheads”
  • Act clueless and don’t make connections
  • Are high maintenance, high risk, and high reward

…and where do you think this comes from? (Whose family tree gets “credit”?)

To Remember

  1. The system is the solution (develop a program-e.g., points for positive behavior)
  2. Surprise is not your friend (plan ahead and tell them about the plan)
  3. Kiss the third request goodbye (one or two is enough)
  4. Being right is highly over-rated (power struggles miss the point and will not work)
  5. Keep your mental illness to yourself (control your emotions and language)
  6. If it is not written, down, it doesn’t exist (lists, notes, charts, technology)

To Try

Behavioral/Psychological – Environmental/Life Style

While there is no magical parenting formula, parenting ADHD kids and teens needs to be more proactive, more intentional, and more thoughtful in their approaches. These strategies apply to parenting all children; however, they are especially helpful with children who have issues of inattention, impulsivity, and over-activity.

  1. First, get their attention (eye contact, prompts)
  2. Structure, structure, and more structure (routines, consistency)
  3. Catch them being good #1 (to reinforce positive behaviors)
  4. Talk and fuss less, behave more (clear expectations, clear consequences)
  5. Run for your life! (or walk, swim, kick, jump, climb, move, exercise)
  6. Teach “executive functioning” skills (study strategies, organization)
  7. Catch them being good #2 (to build confidence, self-esteem)
  8. Find the best school fit, then advocate (504, IEP, Learning Services)
  9. Offer academic tutoring (to build basic skills)
  10. Seek counseling or coaching (for you and your child)
  11. Catch them being good #3 (to shape your behavior)
  12. Teach emotional self-control (don’t assume it)
  13. Don’t over-schedule (to provide down time, rest, and sleep)
  14. Catch them being good #4 (to help break the negative cycle of behavior, punishment, anger, avoidance, loss in self-esteem, depression, acting out)

And finally…

  1. CELEBRATE THE GOOD NEWS OF ADHD (intelligence, creativity, independence, out-of-the-box thinking, “quick twitch” athleticism, sense of humor, energy, enthusiasm)

Books

  • Taking Charge of ADHD, Taking Charge of Adult ADHD, 3rd Edition, Barkley
  • ADHD Workbook for Parents, Parker
  • Spark, Ratey
  • The Gift of ADHD, Honos-Webb
  • ADHD in Adolescence, Robin & Barkley
  • Smart But Scattered, Dawson & Guare, and Smart But Scattered Teens, Guare, Dawson & Guare
  • Give your ADD Teen a Chance, Weiss

Websites

What are the signs your child may need counseling?

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